Whistler Canyon-big on bighorn sheep and Okanogan River views

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Enjoy good views of the Okanogan River from Whistler Canyon.

Location: Okanogan Valley near Oroville

Land Agency: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest 

Roundtrip: 5.0 miles

High Point: 1,950 feet

Elevation gain: 1,250 feet

Difficulty: moderate

Contact: Pacific Northwest Trail Association

Note: Dogs should be under strict control as to not disturb the bighorn sheep.

Access: From Tonasket, follow US 97 north for 14.5 miles to trailhead turnoff (.4 mile north of gravel pit at Milepost 329). Then drive .4 mile to trailhead.

Good to know:  kid-friendly, PNT, exceptional wildlife viewing, spring wildflowers, Practice Leave No Trace Principles 

 

Whistlers? Yes—and lots of ground squirrels, too! But the biggest animal attractions here are the California bighorn sheep. The largest band in the state roams Whistler Canyon, and it’s not unusual to see more than 50 of them at a time! There are excellent views of the Okanogan Valley also from this section of the Pacific Northwest Trail. And if this hike to the canyon and Frog Pond isn’t enough, there are miles of connector trails you can continue on.

This trail is well-built thanks to volunteers from the Backcountry Horsemen, Pacific Northwest Trail Association, and others. Begin by winding along some ledges and through a small pine grove, reaching a junction at .3 mile with the Frog Pond Trail. This is a mandatory side trip. Follow it left beneath a canopy of ponderosa pines and up through a rocky cleft. At 1.0 mile reach a junction with the short .3 mile loop circling Frog Pond. The pond isn’t much to look at—but the surrounding forest of birch, aspen and cottonwood is pleasant enough. The real treat however is the viewpoint on the west side of the loop. Peer out at Oroville, Osoyoos Lake and into British Columbia; and straight down at the oxbowing confluence of the Similkameen and Okanogan Rivers.

Retrace your steps back to the junction and continue left shortly intersecting an old road. Turn left and after a few steps follow a bypass route around a private property holding returning back to the old road at .5 mile from the trailhead. Now within BLM land follow the road into Whistler Canyon. Whistler Creek tumbles below. Watch above for the bighorns and if you spot them (better chances early and late in the day) tread quietly in their presence. Look for deer, turkeys, cedar waxwings, and whistlers too.

Pass a campsite in a grove of pines and cottonwoods. Then leave the creek and angle left traversing ledges with excellent viewing out over the Okanogan Valley, before switchbacking right returning above the creek. Look for a waterfall semi-hidden below. The trail eventually enters a forest of pine and fir reaching a gate and national forest boundary at 1.7 miles. Just beyond the trail—now an old woods road crosses the creek. This is a good spot to turn around and return savoring good valley views and perhaps catching sight of that band of bighorns.

For more detailed information on this trail and others in the area, consult my (co-written with Rich Landers) Day Hiking Eastern Washington

For more information on where to stay and play in the Okanogan Valley check out Northwest Trip Finder

 

Old Sauk River Trail– Stroll along a Wild and Scenic River

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The trail provides plenty of opportunities to view the Sauk River.

Quick Facts:

Location: Mountain Loop Highway near Darrington,

Land Agency: Mount Baker -Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 6.0 miles

Elevation gain: 150 feet

Green Trails Maps: Mountain Loop Highway 111SX

Contact: Darrington Ranger District: Mount Baker -Snoqualmie National Forest 

Notes: Northwest Forest or Interagency Pass required

Access: Take Exit 208 off of I-5 following SR 530 east 32.0 miles east to Darrington. At stop sign, turn right onto the Mountain Loop Highway and proceed for 3.6 miles to trailhead.

Good to Know:  snow-free winter hike, dog-friendly, kid-friendly, bird-watching; ADA-accessible section

 

A major tributary to the Skagit River, the federally-protected Wild and Scenic Sauk River supports a wide array of wildlife and provides critical habitat for Puget Sound salmon. And like the Skagit, this important river also provides winter habitat for scores of bald eagles. The Old Sauk River Trail hugs the riverbank of this ecologically important and strikingly beautiful waterway for three nearly flat miles. And being at a low elevation, this trail is often snow-free and hikeable throughout the year. Spring time is especially enjoyable, with snow melt contributing to a roaring river and woodland flowers adding dabs of color to the emerald surroundings.

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A hiker crosses on of the many sloughs along the way.

The trail begins in a thick stand of mature forest. Logged in the 1930s, many old-growth Douglas-fir trees still boldly stand here. After skirting alongside a slough, reach the Sauk. Behold its beauty and ever changing mood. In the wet fall and winter months, the river’s volume and current increases substantially occasionally jumping its bed to take away a piece of the trail. Dedicated volunteers have kept this trail in good shape, restoring and rerouting the tread when necessary.

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The forest is impressive along this trail too.

Cross a bridge over a small creek and then hike alongside the churning Sauk River. Walk this way in springtime and be treated to brilliant displays of wildflowers. Thousands of trillium, dwarf dogwood, wood violet, twin flower, and star flower carpet the forest floor. Look for birds too—thrushes, wrens, jays, eagles and dippers.

At 1.9 miles reach a junction with the Old Sauk Interpretive Loop accessible trail. This delightful 1.3 mile loop is accessed from the Mountain Loop Highway 2.0 miles south of the trailhead you started from.  It’s perfect not only for wheelchairs but for young hikers and folks just looking for a shorter hiking option, too.

The Old Sauk River Trail continues south to another junction with the Interpretive Loop Trail. Veer left here and hike along another slough. Then cross a channel and traverse a grove of big trees. Cross another channel and come to a big riverside rock. The trail then leaves the raucous river to follow Murphy Creek through a tunnel of moss-draped maples and under a canopy of towering cottonwoods. At 3.0 miles reach the trail’s southern terminus on the Mountain Loop Highway. Now turn around and start hiking back to your vehicle enjoying this trail downriver.

 

For information on lodging and other attractions near The Old Sauk River Trail visit www.snohomish.org

For detailed information on this and other hikes along the Mountain Loop Highway, consult my best-selling  Day Hiking North Cascades guidebook.

For a great cup of coffee-good conversation-a hiking guidebook and a Green Trails Map, be sure to stop in at the Mountain Loop Books and Coffee shop in Darrington

All content and images on this site are copywritten material and MAY NOT be used without the written permission from Craig Romano, owner of Hike of the Week.

 

Ozette Triangle–Classic Olympic Coast Hike packed with surprises

The Wedding Rocks add mystique to the Ozette Triangle.

The Wedding Rocks add mystique to the Ozette Triangle.

Quick Facts:

Location: Olympic Coast

Land Agency: Olympic National Park

Roundtrip: 9.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 400 feet

Notes: National Park entry fee; dogs prohibited; coastal section can be difficult during high tides.

Green Trails Map: Olympic Coast 99S

Contact: Olympic National Park

Access: From Port Angeles, follow US 101 west for 5 miles to SR 112. Continue on SR 112 for 46 miles to Seiku. Travel west on SR 112 for 2.5 miles beyond Seiku and turn left onto the Hoko-Ozette Road. Follow this paved road for 21 miles to trailhead at Ozette Ranger Station.

Good to Know: Kid-friendly, snow-free winter hike, backpacking opportunities (permit required), exceptional wildlife viewing, historic, Practice Leave No Trace Principles, One of  the 100 Classic Hikes of Washington

Sea stacks, sea otters, sea lions, and ocean scenery for as far as you can see, the 9.4 mile Ozette Triangle is one of the finest hikes on the Olympic Coast. An easily accessible loop hike, it’s the perfect introduction to America’s wildest coastline south of Alaska.

From Lake Ozette, one of the largest natural bodies of water in Washington, the loop begins its 3.3 mile journey to the sea. Cross the lazy and brackish Ozette River on an arched bridge soon coming to a junction. Veer right and via good trail and cedar-planked boardwalks, traverse lush maritime forests drenched in sea mist. Towering ferns line the elevated path. Pass through Ahlstrom’s Prairie, an early homestead site, since reclaimed by the dense greenery that thrives in this water-logged climate.

Raucous gulls and the sound of crashing surf announce that the ocean is near. Now gently descend to the wild beaches of Cape Alava. Turn south and follow the shoreline for 3.1 adventurous miles. Look out to off-shore islands. Gaze the ocean waters for seals, whales, and scores of pelagic birds. Look in tidal pools for semi-submerged starfish tenaciously clinging to barnacle-encrusted walls. Look for oystercatchers cruising down the aisles of this open fish market. Look up in the towering trees hugging the shoreline for perched eagles.

Search for Makah petroglyphs etched into the Wedding Rocks, a cluster of shore hugging boulders about half way down the coast. Respect these historic and sacred artifacts; they predate European settlement in the Northwest. If the tide is low continue along the surf. If it is high use the steep but short trails (signed) that bound over the rough headlands. A little more than 3.0 miles from Cape Alava, you’ll arrive at Sand Point. Over two glorious miles of some of the finest sandy beaches in all of Washington extend from this point. Explore at will or return to Lake Ozette via another 3.0 mile long boardwalk trail. It’s all through expansive cedar bogs and under a dense canopy of majestic Sitka spruce. As the sound of the crashing surf slowly fades in the distance, the Ozette Triangle will long continue to chime in your mind.

The Ozette Triangle is one of 136 featured hikes in my Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula 2nd Edition guidebook. Find more details on this hike and detailed and accurate descriptions to many others in this best-selling, most-trusted and comprehensive guide to hiking the Olympic Peninsula. Get your copy today!

Discovery Trail – Follow Lieutenant Clark along the Long Beach Peninsula

Quick Facts:

Location: Long Beach Peninsula

Land Agency: Washington State Parks and others

Roundtrip: 8.2 miles on way

Elevation Gain: 200 feet

Contact: Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau

Access: For the southern trailhead, follow US 101 to Ilwaco. Turn left onto Elizabeth Ave and after two blocks turn right onto Howerton Ave. Park on Howerton Ave. Trail begins on Waterfront Walkway between Advent Ave and Pearl Ave.

 

Good to Know: ADA accessible, dog-friendly, snow-free winter hike, kid-friendly, bike-friendly, Discover Pass required if parking in Cape Disappointment State Park

 

Brave the winter rains by hiking this mostly paved trail which replicates the route of Lieutenant William Clark’s famous hike November 19th 1805 hike.  The trail connects communities, travels over a coastal bluff, and traverses dunes along the Pacific. The scenery is breathtaking. But what really makes this trail so much fun for photographers is its numerous historic sculptures commemorating the Corps of Discovery’s epic journey.

You can access this trail from ten locations making for lots of hiking options. But try to arrange for a shuttle to do the whole 8.2 mile trail in one sweep. The trail starts at a California condor monument on the Ilwaco waterfront. Walk along the Waterfront Way through town before reaching bona fide trail. Then skirt the extensive wetlands of Fords Dry Lake.

Next crest a mist-shrouded bluff and enter Cape Disappointment State Park. Then descend to Beards Hollow, a former cove now a wildlife rich marsh. Then head through a gap reaching dunes and sweeping beach views. The path now heads north through waves of dunes passing numerous trailheads.

Stop at interpretive panels, a dolphin sculpture, and a gray whale skeleton and sculpture. The trail then parallels Long Beach’s boardwalk reaching the Bolstad Arch Trailhead. It continues north to more intriguing sculptures—one of Clark and a big sturgeon; a basalt monolith commemorating the historic hike; and finally “Clark’s Tree.” The Discovery Trail turns east here soon reaching its northern terminus at the Breaker s Trailhead.

 

The Discovery Trail is one of 136 featured hikes in my fully updated and expanded Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula 2nd Edition (Mountaineers Book). For more details on this hike and others (including many on the Long Beach Peninsula), pick up a copy of this book—the number one selling and most trusted guidebook on hiking in the Olympics—today!

 

For information on where to stay and on other things to do on the Olympic Peninsula, check out Northwest TripFinder

 

 

Jay Lake — Solitude and camping at Wallace Falls State Park

Quick Facts:

Location: Skykomish River Valley, US 2

Land Agency: Washington State Parks

Roundtrip: 11.5 miles

Elevation gain: 1,575 feet

Green Trails Map: 

Contact: Wallace Falls State Park 

Notes: Discover Pass required; Dogs must be leashed; Camping requires a permit-attain from park prior to trip.

Access: From Everett, follow US 2 for 28 miles east to Gold Bar. Turn left onto 1st Street and proceed for .4 mile. Then turn right onto May Creek Road and continue for 1.5 miles to Wallace Falls State Park and trailhead.

Good to Know: dog-friendly, kid-friendly, snow free winter hiking; waterfalls; backpacking opportunities

 

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Peaceful Jay Lake on a quiet spring day.

Wallace Falls is one of Washington’s busiest and most popular state parks. You’d be hard pressed to find solitude there even on a rainy day in winter. Yet, while thousands of hikers each month take to trails to the park’s spectacular series of thundering waterfalls, you can still find solitude here. But, you’ll have leave the waterfalls and work for it!

There are miles of trails and old woods roads within this state park and adjacent DNR-property. And several of these routes are lightly traveled. One of the loneliest spots in the park is Jay Lake, reached by a long but enjoyable hike. To reach it, follow hordes of happy hikers to the Woody Trail. Then continue to the Railroad Cut-off Trail taking this short but steep path 0.1 mile to an old logging railroad grade now a wide trail. Turn right and after a third of a mile reach the Greg Ball Trail.

A former board member and director of the Washington Trails Association (WTA), Ball launched WTA’s volunteer trail maintenance program back in 1993. It has since grown into the largest state-based program of its kind. In 2004 at the age of 60, Ball passed away after battling cancer. He had designed this trail to Wallace Lake.

Paralleling the North Fork of the Wallace River, this trail gracefully meanders through mature second growth. After a half mile the way steepens and the forest grows darker. But an agreeable grade and forest soon returns. At about 3.0 miles from the trailhead the river can be seen cascading through a narrow chasm. About a half mile farther the trail terminates at a DNR Road. Turn right on the road for a short 0.1 mile to a junction with an old road taking off left. Then follow this near level forested way for .5 mile to the southern tip of large and tranquil Wallace Lake.

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One of two potentially tricky creek crossings.

Continue left .7 mile on an old road along the lake’s forested shoreline to where the North Fork Wallace River (here more of a creek) flows into the lake at inviting Pebble Beach. Now cross the North Fork (good luck keeping your boots dry) and continue on a lonely stretch of trail to Jay Lake. Pass some moisture loving Sitka Spruce, a rarity this far inland from the coast—then hop across another creek.

One more boot soaking creek crossing must be negotiated before you arrive at the quiet and more than likely deserted Jay Lake. Find a backcountry camping area (inquire within the park for a camping permit) and picnic table set amidst a grove of hemlocks. The lake’s shoreline is brushy making it difficult to reach its waters. But none-the-less, the location is soothing and feels quite remote. Pretty amazing too when you consider that while you listen to quiet breezes and thrush and wren song here at Jay Lake, hundreds of hikers are wearing down the tread near the waterfalls!

For information on lodging and other attractions near Jay Lake visit  www.snohomish.orgSnohomish-NEW

For more information on hiking Wallace Falls State Park and other snow-free hiking destinations throughout Western Washington, consult my Winter Hikes of Western Washington Deck.Winter Hikes Card DeckGet your copy today!